Luna Bar All Women’s Triathlon Festival 2009

31 08 2009

This last Sunday I participated in the Luna Bar Duathlon at the Luna Bar All Women’s Duathlon at Rancho Seco Park, which is in rolling hills south of Sacramento near some vineyards and a nuclear power plant (I’d never been this close to one!!). I had decided to do this event because it was going to be 2 days after I moved and I figured I could use both motivation to unpack stuff from my car and a break from putting stuff away. Also, I was interested in getting into triathlons and thought this would be a good intro because I wouldn’t have to deal with the swim – bike transition, which seemed complicated, or struggle to train for swimming, since I technically didn’t have access to the Caltech gym/pool any more after graduating (what do girls do with your hair? Do you just redo it after taking off swim cap? Braids?)

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Bike and bag of gear all ready to go the night before

I trained for this more than any recent event, mostly because I knew my legs needed to be in shape for the biking and running. The Rose Bowl was perfect for this – mostly flat with some very gentle hills and a 3.15mi loop. I would do several laps for a bike workout or 1-2 laps for a run workout. I also did a couple of practice duathlons – transitioning at the car.

So I felt pretty prepared. I packed up all my gear the night before and got up at 5am the morning of to drive to Rancho Seco Park so I would have plenty of time to park, check in, and prepare my transition area. I’d never done something like this before, so I checked out how other ladies were setting their stuff up, putting the bike on the rack by the seat and organizing their various shoes, clothing, and towels (for triathletes) on the ground next to the bike.

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My bike in the transition area

It was so cool being at an event that was just for female athletes. There were 4 events – Super Sprint Duathlon and Triathlon and Luna Bar Duathlon and Triathlon, so there was an event for everyone, from the not-so-in shape to the serious triathletes. Throughout the day, everyone was really supportive of each other and sports-woman-ship was everywhere. Plus, I didn’t often see this many women in my years at Caltech (only at frisbee tournaments, where the camaraderie is not so good…) Yes, boys, it was nice for all of you to be on the sidelines just cheering us on.

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Looking at all the ladies setting up in the transition area.

My race was a 2 mile run, followed by a 20 mile bike ride and a 4 mile run. These last 2 legs were shared with the triathletes, who started in waves on a .5 mile lake swim. When we started the first run, we all joked that we would rather be jumping in the lake – the run course was in the sun and it was already getting hot. I’d drank about 2 Liters of water since waking up, though, so I think I started out pretty well hydrated. I focused on pacing myself on the first run – I have a tendency to go out WAY too fast and tire myself out early and felt good and relaxed on the first run, doing 8-minute miles, faster than I’d expected. My first transition went well and I felt fast and strong going out on the bike course, even though I was getting passed by triathletes who’d clearly trained more than me (my cycle speed is currently only about 15 mi/hr, whereas I imagine the best athletes were probably around 20mi/hr). I had taken two shot bloks before starting the race and took the remaining 4 shot bloks at intervals throughout the bike ride (it’s way easier to do bloks/gu while cycling than while running) and trying to stay hydrated.

The bike ride was an out-and-back course and it seemed there was a little more uphill on the way back, plus a headwind, so I didn’t go quite as fast and my legs started to get tired, but I kept going. I only had one almost-bad incident when some bitchy lady honked at us from behind (I guess she was impatient to pass?) and I jumped, accidentally nudging my front wheel onto the soft shoulder. Miraculously, though, I got back on the road almost immediately and hadn’t been at one of the spots where the pavement dropped off several inches to the shoulder. A passing woman congratulated me for not crashing and flipped off the rude driver for me.

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My number – 76

The final run was hard for me, not only because it was longer than the first run, but because my legs were really tired and my stomach was feeling really awful, as it often does on races. Normally, 4 miles wouldn’t be too bad of a run for me, but the heat and tiredness made it a big challenge. I focused on my breathing, and on taking advantage of the downhill sections (which not a lot of people seemed to do). I had a cup of electrolyte and a cup of water at every aid station (every mile, which was great!), using most of the water to pour on my head to keep cool.

I ended up finishing in 2:24:50. I’d not had a good idea of how long this should have taken me, but I expected to take over 2 hours and, based on the return part of the bike course and the second run course, I was pleasantly surprised by this not-too-terribly awful finish time (the winning time was 1:57:00, the last finisher was 2:54:54). I was 8th out of 22 athletes in the Duathlon and 1st (out of one athlete, but hey, I was competing just against myself anyways) in the 20-29 age group.

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My 1st place plaque and free box of Luna Bars!

Overall, this event was a great experience! Everyone was really friendly and supportive. It made me really excited to get into triathlons next season because I still don’t really love running, but I enjoy biking and swimming. This was a lot more fun than the long trail race I did in May, even though I covered more distance, because I got to ride my bike! In the meantime, I’m hoping to get my cycling speed up, get back into swimming, and maybe compete in some shorter trail races (I’ve always been better at running less far…) so I can work on my speed. If I’m not out in the field for this event next year, I definitely want to do it again! Check out this page for info about the race this year.

Do any of you blog readers do triathlons? Any training tips?


Technical Trickery, A Pine Creek Photo Essay

26 08 2009

I like granite and I like bolts so this past weekend at Pine Creek was a blast. We clipped a ton of bolts on the long well protected routes of the Mustache and Ministry walls before heading to Gotham City at the Owens River Gorge for the final half-day.

The following photo from was the first time I saw or heard  anything about Pine Creek.  I had either just moved to California or was in the process of doing so and was psyched to see a pretty shot of a “local” area  and it stuck in my mind. During my two years here I have met the climber, Leah, who you have perhaps seen photos of in earlier blogs, the photographer, her husband, and the route developer Louie Andersen.  All of these things secured Pine Creek, in my head, as a possible destination.

Leah on Atomic Gecko (photo by Andre via

I read Pine Creek was great in the late summer,  since the walls go into the shade at 10,  and ended up getting some useful beta from friends, John and Shannon prior to our trip. Lizzy and I drove up from Pasadena to meet our friends Jamie and Nikki from Santa Barbara who had arrived the night before.

The weekend was great and I focused on onsighting routes and trying hard. My determination was rewarded with a 5.12 onsight which confirms that my fitness is returning. My other highlight of the weekend was climbing The Megaplex, a sustained three pitch 5.11c. Each pitch had a memorable section and I happily onsighted the 1st and 3rd, with my friend Jamie onsighting the 2nd. It was very cool to do a team free ascent since neither of us fell on our way to the top.

Jamie and I ended the second day with back to back ascents of Flamethrower which featured a techy slab up to a crazy steep roof, very wild for granite. Earlier in the day Lizzy had redpointed Window Shopper for her 6th 11c!  It was very cool to have everyone in the party send this climb and both of the ladies really did well with the technical crimping.

I found the routes on the Mustache wall to be very fun and the granite was nice and sticky. The two routes we did on the Ministry Wall were totally different than the Mustache wall and the hold and rock type dictated a different set of moves. I thought Never Believe was an awful warm-up and  just wasn’t very fun.  Burning Inside, on the other hand, was quite excellent  and featured very cool movement on a variety of holds that always seemed to face the wrong direction.

Enjoy the photos!

– Luke

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Jamie takes a warm-up lap on The Becky Route, 10a

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Jamie figuring out the no hands standup sequence on a fun 11a, Mr. Ridiculous

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Jamie figures out a technical sequence on Window Shopper

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Lizzy starting up Window Shopper on her 1st lead go.

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Lizzy works her way though small crimps and tricky foot sequences.

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Lizzy pulls through one of several fun mantles on the upper part of Window Shopper.

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Nicole on the way to her first 5.11 redpoint!

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Nicole tries not to get too excited about crushing small crimps.


Luke on his way to to a 12a onsight!


Luke manages not to fall off the crux of Stone Cold Fusion.

Day 2:


Lizzy starts up Never Believe the on the Ministry wall.


Jamie enjoying his flash of Burning Inside at the Ministry Wall.


Jamie sets off on the second pitch of The Megaplex

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Jamie works his way up the fun slab of Flame Thrower


Luke checks out the intimidating roof on Flame Thrower.


Luke pulls the lip on his onsight of Flame Thrower.

Sweet Gear Review: La Sportiva Miura VS

25 08 2009

I have been a follower of the La Sportiva Miuras (I have a pair of the unisex and women’s versions) for a long time. I got my original pair about 6 years ago and have resoled them 4 or 5 times now and they were still amazing (they now have an unfixable hole, so they are on the fast track to retirement, sadly). When I heard that Sportiva was coming out with a velcro version and the new P3 platform to help prolong the downturned shape, I knew I had to get a pair. With my small feet, it took a while before I could get my hands on a pair, but it was well worth the wait.

The Miura VS fits fairly similarly to my other two pairs of Miuras – it conforms perfectly to my foot. In my men’s Miuras, there is a little extra space in the toebox that my women’s Miuras and the Miura VS don’t have, but this doesn’t seem to have affected the performance. The 3 velcro straps are very good at tightening the shoe around my narrow feet (just as good as the lace versions), but much easier to remove quickly (i.e. well suited for bouldering).

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Trying out the Miura VS on Sad Parrot (V3), Sad Boulders, Bishop.

I’d heard that the sizing of the Miura VS was about a quarter size (European) different than the original ones, so I sized down half a size – getting a 35, when my normal Miuras are both 35.5. The result is that the shoes are a bit tighter than my other Miuras, but not painfully so. I feel you would be wasting some of the power to not size down half a size like I did, but you should probably still try on a pair before buying (or get a pair with a good exchange policy) if you’re not already familiar with your normal Miura size.

What has really impressed me is the HUGE improvement in performance that comes from the shape and the P3 plaform. Although my old Miuras had always been great for technical edging and smearing, the VS bring it to a whole new level. On several problems in Bishop and Joe’s Valley, the Miura VS have allowed me to put an incredible amount of power on a tiny foothold that even my well-performing women’s Katanas couldn’t handle.

The shoes also come with the relatively new Vibram XS Grip rubber, which I’ve been very pleased with, although I’ve always been happy with the rubber that La Sportiva uses. I feel like I can usually compensate for less “stickiness” with better footwork and the extended lifetime of Vibram rubber (relative to softer rubbers) is really cost-effective in the long run.

Although I haven’t done much  heel-hooking in the new shoes, they have the same awesome heelcup as the original Miuras, so I’d guess they’d be just as good for heel-hooking.

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Enjoying the great edging of the Miura VS on the technical, small crimps of Window Shopper, 5.11c, Pine Creek Canyon.

Recently, I took the shoes on their first route (Window Shopper, 5.11c, Pine Creek). They were, again, fantastic, if a bit painful still, for standing on small edges. I didn’t really feel like I could smear in them at all, but they compensated for that by allowing me to stand on micro-crystals. Now I’m even more excited to wear these on other routes, since I love the kind with technical footwork on very small holds.

Perhaps the only decrease in performance is the fact that, since the shoes are so good at retaining their down-turned shape, they will not cross quite as well into hard crack climbing and multi-pitch climbing as my older Miuras (whose shape has mellowed out a lot) have. However, I expect many more great performances on boulder problems and single-pitch climbs requiring a lot of technical footwork.

Overall, I’d say the Miura VS is a must-have addition to the climbing shoe quiver of any Miura and/or Katana lover.

– Lizzy

Sweet Gear: New Reviews Coming Soon!

20 08 2009

2009 has been full of new gear at Dream in Vertical and we will be publishing  some of the reviews that Lizzy mentioned earlier in the year.  As well we just got two of the latest and greatest shoes from La Sportiva thanks to Backbone Media and Sara over at RockClimberGirl.

I am excited to try out TC Pro which seems perfectly suited for some of the harder multipitches I plan on climbing  later in the year.

The new Sportiva TC Pro designed by Tommy Caldwell featuring Vibram XS Edge rubber.

Lizzy will be testing out the Speedster and as a stiff shoe lover will provided a chance to try out the more sensitive end of the climbing shoe range.

The super sensative Speedster with the new 3mm Vibram XS Grip 2

Also after wearing the Arc’teryx R320 for many pitches from Zion, to Smith Rock and the Sierra I feel ready for a review.

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Wearing the R320 on a sub 20 hour C2C ascent of DarkStar

Also I will be doing a 1 year review of the Black Diamond Oz, C3 and the Petzl Reverso3.

This should add a bit more info to my previous post:

Sweet Gear Generation3: The Reverso, The OZ, and C3’s

Also be sure to check out some of our other Sweet Gear reviews:

Approach Shoe Reviews by Lizzy.

A General Rope Review by Luke

La Sportiva Miura VS by Lizzy

Patagonia DAS Parka by Lizzy

Patagonia R1 Flash Pullover by Lizzy

Patagonia Plush Pants by Lizzy


– Luke

Escaping the Summer heat at Altitude: Climbing at Keller Peak and Whitney Portal

18 08 2009

The last few weeks of July were particularly hot in SoCal and Lizzy and I have escaped to the higher altitudes for a bit of fresh air.

Many weeks back, the day before Lizzy returned to Cali, I took a short trip up to Keller peek with Josh. It was pretty hot but we got a bit of bouldering in and did some exploring around Dinosaur rock. Josh had been waiting at the campsite while I battled traffic and informed me that the middle of the day was HOT.

As the sun fell low in the sky I got excited to take advantage of the cool temps for a possible first ascent of a dirty finger crack on the side of lower dinosaur rock. We ran back to the car and got headlamps and gear and I proceeded to make my way up the crack covering Josh with dirt and granite in the process. The light faded but  luckily I had borrowed Josh’s head lamp and made it to the top bleeding, covered in dirt, but happy.

My headlamp, which I had given Josh, had almost run out of batteries and as I struggled on the climb Josh was slowly slipping into darkness. Once off belay I set up a rappel to clean the gear and Josh walked around the back to clean my rap anchor.  I was psyched to have done a climb already as we quickly drove to town to get pizza.

The next day Josh was super excited and was awake at 5am. Since the cliff was so close we were climbing before 6 and had finished up by 10:30. This ended up working perfectly since the heat was unbearable and did not go well with the sharp granite. I was able to headpoint a climb that I had top roped last time for most likely its first lead. If this climb was in bishop and had a slightly flatter landing it would likely be a highball. A perfect jug gave way to a horizontal crack that provided the only gear to protect the crux. We thought that I could fall on the first few moves safely but as I got towards the top a fall should be avoided. One final cam protected the mantel to the anchor and made the climb safe enough. I did a few runs on TR to figure out the foot holds and then succeeded on the lead on my first try! (phew)

Josh had looked at a very pretty line on the back wall that followed a series of crescents past 4 bolts. I rapped down it to place the QD’s and Josh gave it a go from the ground. He managed to figure out the first section but got stuck at the crux between the 2nd and 3rd bolts. I struggled much more on the first section but found some hidden crimps and made it to the top.  After a rest, where Josh tried a few other routes, and another try on TR I was able to redpoint this fun route just barely sticking the crux bump and keeping my weight low on the following sloper traverse.  This was our last route and a great end to the day!

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Looking up from the base at the crazy knobs on Boney Fingers.

Fresh off getting her wisdom teeth out, Lizzy wanted to take it easy, the Sunday she returned from Seattle,  so she brought her bike to San Diego so we could go for a long ride. I had recently been convinced to start triathlon training by a friend and I was excited to do a bit of extra biking with Lizzy.

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A pretty Sierra view from the 1st belay

The following weekend we were to go to Whitney Portal to climb Boney Fingers, MSMR, and Ghost Rider. This was a lot of pitches but they all seemed doable. I had recently started campus training with my friend Stein and got in a workout before we got on the road Friday morning. This was a bad idea, since my body did not have any time to recover. I felt fine on the hike in to Boney Fingers, but my body shut down as soon as I started climbing. The 5.11 direct start was beyond me and I pulled on the bolts to get established in the crack.  It seemed odd that there were only 3 bolts since there was serious ground fall potential before you get in your first piece.  I managed to work my way up the crack, feeling way out of shape, but didn’t fall and made it to the knob anchor.

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Looking out from the stone House as described in our directions.

The 2nd pitch was much more fun and was a staggering 70 meters!! I didn’t have nearly enough quickdraws and placed all but one of my cams. The last many feet were protected by small nuts and thankfully I didn’t feel too much rope drag with my Sterling Ion.  I would suggest the following rack: 1 blue alien, 3 green aliens, 5 yellow aliens (or more!), 3 grey aliens, 1 or 2 – .5 camalot,  2 –  .75 camalot.  Also bring many small nuts, at least 10 qds and a handful of slings. 70 meters is a long way! We followed the advice on and I rapped first, fetched the 2nd rope which Lizzy pulled up and then double rope rapped.

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Lizzy takes a break on our way in to climb on Lone Pine Peak

We did this in time to get back before dark and got ready for an early-ish departure the next morning. I was very excited for SuperDike (aka MSMR) since I knew all the first ascentionists. After an exciting drive (narrow road with steep dropoff on one side) we made it to the “trail head” and made good time to the stone house on a very steep but decent trail. After leaving the stone house we followed a very good trail of cairns for a long way until they disappeared. We had notes from two friends but the approach photos had somehow not printed. Despite this we continued cross country up the hill hoping to rediscover the trail. About an hour and a few false cairns later we found the correct trail much further uphill than we had been.


We thought the hiking would never end as we trekked towards the face above…


A nice photo we took of the route  not knowing where the climb was…

We had been hiking for over 2.5 hours at this point and were not quite sure of our destination. We feared that it was a far off wall (1st photo above) since we could not see a large dike on the face closest to us (photo directly above). We had spotted something similar to the “sea of knobs” noted in the topo but could not at the time figure out how the route would lead to this feature. With much doubt we continued until a large talus field noted in the directions at which point we had reached the 3 hour mark. The day had been getting progressively hotter and we were still over an hour from our objective.

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The less obvious upper trail.

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The well traveled but incorrect lower trail with a misleading HUGE cairn.

Lizzy and I made the hard decision to turn around, which was the right one, since we had lost so much time already and likely would run out of water and be hiking back in the dark. Determined not to lose our way we managed to take the high trail all the way back to the stone house. We found that we had made an initial error (going low on the good trail past the huge cairn) versus staying high on a worse trail. Hopefully these photos will help the next party choose the right trail.

The key photo that I didn’t print out from SummitPost

Once we hiked out and drove back to Whitney Portal (with a stop at McDonalds for a McFlurry!) we had many hours left in the day. With a single small pack of water and food Lizzy and I decided to go as far as we could up the Meysan Lake trail. It was so nice to know where we were going after being lost for over an hour approaching Lone Pine Peak. It was so chill to have such a small pack and we had a much better time chatting instead of the constant, “AH, we are lost where do we go” from before.  The hike was pretty and while we did not make it to the lake we saw some pretty rocks on the way up. We had forgotten our watch and headlamps so we turned  around early to make sure we were back before dark.

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A happy Lizzy and Luke, no longer lost!

Motivation was a bit low after being lost for a while so we drove back early for some relaxation on Sunday. Overall it was a bunch of drivingnd not much climbing abut it was still very cool to see Whitney Portal. There is so much granite and it makes me want to go back to try and put up some new routes. Now that we figured out where MSMR is I will have to go back for another attempt!



Incredible Hulk Double Header!

13 08 2009

Although Luke had already climbed on the Incredible Hulk twice with his friend Konstantin, he wanted to go back with me so I could experience the wild alpine granite and so we could do Positive Vibrations without getting lost. I was a little nervous, but I’ve done some alpine climbing before – in Tuolumne and the North Cascades – so I wasn’t too worried. Maybe I should have been a little more concerned…

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Crossing the creek on logs.

All worries aside, we woke up early on Saturday morning to drive up to Twin Lakes, where we’d ditch the car and start hiking with our big packs. The drive was uneventful and we made it to the campground/parking after a rather disappointing lunch (at least on my part) at the Burger Barn in Bridgeport. Luke worked on packing all our gear (rack, slings, QDs, tent, sleeping bags and pads, food, JetBoil, etc.) into our packs, while I added a middle mark to our rope (because Luke’s beloved Sterling ropes don’t come with middle marks, for some reason that I still don’t understand).

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Looking up at the Hulk from the approach.

We set out on the Barney Lake trail, stopping a couple times to apply bug repellent and adjust my pack suspension, since I hadn’t worn this pack for over 6 years (but, thanks to Lowe Alpine’s nifty adjustable torso length, still fits me!). After the first ~2.5 miles, we left the main hiking trail and started winding our way up the climbers’ trail that heads up-canyon towards the Incredible Hulk. We’d started hiking at about 7,000ft, and were steadily gaining elevation toward the base of the Hulk, which is at about 10,000ft. The elevation hadn’t initially bothered me, but as we got higher, I definitely started to feel it. I live in Pasadena, which lies a whopping 864ft above sea level, so I am essentially a huge altitude wimp. Especially with no acclimatization, I was definitely suffering my fair share on the latter part of the hike.

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Hiking up the talus.

However, we made it to the flat below the Incredible Hulk talus field in time to see the lovely evening light on the Hulk, having completed the hike in somewhere around 5 hours. We set up the tent, pumped some water from the stream, and quickly retreated into the tent to escape the mosquitoes while we boiled water for dinner in the vestibule. We were hungry after the long hike, so we stuffed our faces with Mountain House Chili Mac and a packet of tuna before drifting off to sleep. Our sleep was disrupted in the middle of the night by some heavy-sounding footsteps and heavy breathing. Terrified, and holding our breaths in our sleeping bags, we waited for the whatever-it-was to pass. Luke had thought it might be a bear, but I was pretty sure it sounded like it had hooves, and the breathing sounded like a horse’s heavy breathing. We laid there, wide awake and hearts pumping, as the possible-small-elk-with-breathing-problem ran by a second time. It took us a while to calm down and fall back asleep.

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Sunset on the Incredible Hulk.

Sunday morning, we’d planned on sleeping in and taking a slow, relaxing start to the day to minimize our time on route before it got in the sun. We ended up waiting a bit longer than we’d originally planned because the other party hadn’t started super early either and were moving a bit slow on the first pitches. After soloing up to the first 5.8 bulge, we roped up and Luke led up to the base of the Red Dihedral while I shivered below, nibbling on a Mojo bar and trying to recover from the nausea I’d developed while hiking. Again, huge altitude wimp…

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Lizzy leading up the Red Dihedral.

When it was my turn to climb, I felt off. My fingers and toes were numb and the backpack was quite heavy – food, 2L of water, and both our pairs of approach shoes. Plus altitude. I was feeling discouraged by the time I got to the belay, but it was my turn to lead next (no pack!) and Luke convinced me I wouldn’t want to have to do the next pitch with the pack. So, with that, I reluctantly set off into the “money pitch”, the namesake “Red Dihedral” – a sustained 5.9 left-facing corner to some crazy 5.10 stemming moves at the top. Not the most awesome pitch I’ve ever done, but pretty good.

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Luke is psyched after leading the 10a mostly hands splitter.

After this, we stepped around the corner for the remainder of the wandering, mostly easy pitches. Although the position was great, the route was a bit wandering and the heavy pack made following not-so-much fun. Also, it was really cold. Even after the route came in the sun, there were many clouds and it was pretty windy, which prevented me from ever warming up. A little bit of simul-climbing took us along the traverse to the last 2 pitches to the summit, both of which would have been cool if they weren’t so dirty. We paused on the summit (over 11,000ft of elevation) for some snacks and a few quick snapshots before carefully down-climbing to the rap station. After rappelling, we began the long hike down the West Gully on talus and scree. This was no Stawamus Chief descent trail, ladies and gentlemen.

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On the summit of the Incredible Hulk.

Back at the tent, we pumped some more water and had more Mountain House food and another tuna packet for dinner, along with some chocolate cheesecake in a packet (mmm, chocolate…). I was exhausted and very apprehensive about the next day. The Red Dihedral had been hard, maybe not technically, but definitely physically, and Positive Vibrations is much harder. There isn’t a single pitch easier than 5.10. I was worried about being able to get myself up the harder pitches with the pack.

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Looking out at the Hulk from inside the tent.

The next morning dawned warmer (even before the sun) and Luke dragged a very not-excited me back up the approach talus to the base of Positive Vibrations. I was tired and sore and was still suffering from the altitude. I have no future as a high-altitude climber and that’s ok with me.

Fortunately (although I didn’t think so at the time), the first pitch was mine to lead, which forced me to get my rock climbing face on and helped me warm up a bit, which managed to help me stay positive for the rest of the day (that, and eating more food). As Luke had suggested, I linked the first 2 pitches, with 2 5.10 cruxes, onto a nice ledge below the first 5.11 pitch. The next lead was Luke’s – the climbing was pretty easy for most of the short pitch, with some crazy, balance-y stemming towards the end, which I was able to follow without falling even with the pack on! Thankfully, since we were planning on rapping instead of hiking off, the pack was much lighter today because we didn’t have to bring the approach shoes. The third pitch (Luke’s again) was some crazy stemming up a corridor, finished by some hard, awkward moves getting over a bulge. Again, I was able to follow without falling, although I was tired by the time I reached the belay.

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Lizzy leads up the first pitch of Positive Vibrations.

The next pitch was supposed to be mine, but I told Luke I really needed to rest longer and I wasn’t having too much trouble with the pack. So Luke lead again (and ended up leading the rest of the route, too, which was just fine with me…) up some awkward cracks to the base of the crux pitch. He decided to break this pitch up into two, since the hard part (which he hadn’t done before, due to he and Konstantin getting a bit lost) was at the very end. The crux was a hard reach after some tricky thin cracks and a couple of crimps that weren’t quite as good as they looked from below.

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Taking a break to make silly faces on Positive Vibrations.

After that pitch, Luke and I were both getting pretty tired, but we forced ourselves to keep drinking water and eating our snack food to give us energy for the last two long 5.10 pitches. The last pitch was probably one of the better pitches of the route (although I was too tired to fully appreciate it) – never-ending jamming.

Once at the top (not the summit, since you can’t rap once you traverse and climb up there), we immediately started focusing on rappelling (forgetting to take the summit photo) so we would have enough energy and light to get back down safely. With our single 70m rope, we were able to make it to the ground in 12 rappels, mostly rapping down the anchors for Venturi Effect, and getting a little confused about which anchors to use closer to the ground. It only got dark for the last 2 rappels, but Luke had wisely packed 2 headlamps in the pack, so we were ok. (Update:  The best way to rap with a 70m rope from the 2nd pitch ledge is as follows. Rappel down to the optional anchor (P1 in the Supertopo), slings and maybe a rap ring on a horn but don’t stop.  Go down about 5 more feet and swing left 10+ feet to bolts. From here you should reach the ground in one rappel ~35 meters. With a 60m rope you have to use the sling anchor and then do a short 40+ foot rappel and  swing right to the bolts atop the Power Ranger start.)

Back at the tent, we devoured Mountain House pasta primavera with some tuna added in (SOOO GOOD) and laid in the tent, sore and tired but unable to fall asleep for a while.

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It sure is Incredible and Hulking.

The next morning we scraped out tired selves out of our sleeping bags, packed everything up, and hiked back to the car in a little under 3 hours. We opted to make our hungry stomachs wait a little longer and went to the Mobil Station Restaurant A.K.A. Whoa Nellie Deli instead of the Burger Barn. The fish tacos are SO GOOD!

It was an exhausting weekend. The whole Incredible Hulk experience made my other alpine climbing experiences, like Washington Pass and Cathedral Peak, seem like cragging. I mean, the approach was short, the altitude didn’t kick my butt, and the climbing was easy… Luke had taken some altitude pills (Diamox) his last couple of alpine climbs with Konstantin and thinks that that could have helped us. Although I didn’t enjoy the Red Dihedral a ton, Positive Vibrations was actually quite good – mostly crack climbing with much better rock and position.

Luke still wants to climb all the harder routes on the Hulk (there are quite a few) and I haven’t decided yet whether to go back. I guess I’d want to be in better shape so the hiking doesn’t destroy me as much and so that climbing an entire day of 5.11 (which would be the easiest of the harder routes) wouldn’t be hard. Yeah, I’m not there yet. I guess I’m a bit spoiled and I like the lack of additional mental challenge that comes from being at a high, remote climbing area (as opposed to, say, the Chief in Squamish, which is pretty much at sea level and not at all remote). But at the same time, Positive Vibrations forced me to push myself harder than I usually do – I was really fatigued on the last couple pitches, but just kept jamming.

Anyways, the Incredible Hulk, what an experience.

Mutli-Pitch Bliss at Mount Charleston

12 08 2009

Most of the time I think of myself as a sport climber but I really enjoy being high above the ground. Mutli-pitching takes one beautiful places but it is usually reserved for trad climbers. Two weekends ago we indulged and brought only quickdraws and slings while climbing Cathedral Rock at Mt. Charleston.  Despite the many other cool climbs we did during the weekend the three pitch Cathedral Route was the highlight for me.

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3rd classing up some loose choss.

Our weekend started on a negative but enlightening note. Despite arriving Friday afternoon and driving around for more than an hour to the five campgrounds we were unable to find an open. Most of the sites were empty but reserved for that night. In the future it seems that reservations are a MUST HAVE for the the summer at Mt Charleston. We pitched our tent at the free area near Mary Jane falls and took the short walk into the Mary Jane crag since we had lost so much time driving around.

The weather was perfect in the shade up at Mt Charleston and it was nice to be a bit chilly in August.  We both tried to warm-up on an awkward 5.8 and then started working our way through to some of the harder routes.  I soon got on the namesake climb, Mary Jane, and it was amazing. I thought that Lizzy might be able to flash it and so as I climbed I tried to let her know what the moves were like and where the holds were.  This added to the pump but I still managed the onsight. With all the looking up Lizzy was feeling a bit off and I’m sure the elevation (7000+ feet) didn’t help.  Lizzy decided to take it easy and we relaxed while I depumped. Up for a bit of adventure I got on a route that wasn’t in our guidebook and it was exciting with an awkward crux and a fun finale at 5.11-. I convinced Lizzy to TR this route which she sent with a few falls even though it was not her style. It was getting late but I had a bit more energy and did a few 5.10b’s at the end of the crag onsighting one and doing the other 2nd try.  Looking at the book  a bit later I realized I had misread the descriptions and the climbs were actually 5.10a (left) and 5.11a (right) which made more sense and I felt silly for misreading the book.

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Lizzy checking out the upcoming climbing after Pitch 1.

One of the big reasons for going back to Charleston was to give Lizzy a crack at her project from last season, Five Finger Discount.  She had done all the moves and linked different sections but could not get through the techy crux from the ground. Saturday we warmed up on an awesome 5.8 at Robbers Roost before I decided to give Future Days an attempt. This was one of the first routes bolted at Charleston and I had previously been too intimidated to try it. I soloed 15 feet to the first bolt doing multiple 5.10 moves on the way. Some tricky reaches got me to the 2nd bolt and the crux. I felt around for a while trying to find holds but eventually gave up, unwilling to set off  into the unknown and the distant bolt.  A few false starts later I figured out the tricky foot moves and made it through the crux and to the next bolt. The rest of the route was much easier than expected though I still hung at the last bolt before a final hard move and the 20 foot runout to the anchor.
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Looking out at the surrounding hills (The hood is just right of center behind an obvious yellow buttress)

With the crux sequence memorized I sent the route 2nd try and Lizzy climbed it on TR only falling at the first crux. With our warmup complete we left the sunny side of robbers roost (it was hot) and went to the main breezy corridor. Fortunately the project draws we had left on Five Finger Discount were still there and Lizzy was all set for the send! The first part of the route went very smoothly and she took at the crux to save energy and remember the complex sequence. The first few tries were unsuccessful but all of a sudden Lizzy found her zone and did the crux move easily, got the tricky next clip and went to the top!! On her next try Lizzy made the bottom section look super casual and sent the route without a problem!! It was cool to see Lizzy step outside of her box and climb a route that required bigger moves on a steeper wall. In between her tries I had given a burn to my project, The Burgler, but the final moves still seemed hard from the hang so I still needed to gain fitness before any real redpoint attempts.

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Lizzy follows the “alpine” like second pitch.

We spent a bit more time after lunch looking for a campsite for Saturday night but no luck! We were really hoping to move from the free lot since we had not slept well the previous night due to a group of screaming crazies from Vegas that were running around at 3am.

We moved on to The Hood which had a few 5.12’s that I had not tried yet. When we got there the first 5.12a, Rappin Boyz, was wet so I attempted what I thought was Jazz Ma Taz. It had fixed chain draws so I knew I could always bail if it was too hard. The moves were really cool and I made good progress bolt to bolt until the 2nd to last bolt. The final boulder problem involved a powerful undercling sequence followed by a huge reach to a decent hold by the anchor. This section was a show stopper and I lowered off not sure what to do.

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Lizzy shoes a bit of attitude.

We found the other 5.12 that I wanted to try, I believe it was called Borne a Snake, and it looked really desperate and there was no chalk meaning it had not been climbed recently. After talking to a few locals I realized the route I  had just tried shared the start with Jazz Ma Taz but had a totally different finish. This explained the chalked 12+ that I had seen on the rock though the local told me he thought it was super hard and likely 13a. The final boulder problem had been really desperate and everything made more sense. With no other routes in mind I wanted to see how far I could link and gave it another go.

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Out of the shade for a summit shot!

My lack of limestone fitness showed instantly as I had to rework the sequence to the 4th bolt on the fly since I couldn’t hold on the same way as my first try. I thruched a bit got the clip and fully committed to the next sequence making a hard pull left to a sinker jug. My fingers stalled on the deadpoint just beyond the hold and I though I wasn’t going to be able to fall into the big pocket. With encouragement from Lizzy I made it a bit further but found another sequence where my beta was too strength intensive for the link. After a few falls I made some good progress on the top boulder problem but still couldn’t work out how to get my right hand in the last undercling.

Lizzy was a bit low on motivation, which often comes after sending a hard project, and we moved on to some easier climbs. I lead a painfully sharp 5.10a slab just left of the Corrosion cave which I knew Lizzy would not like and we decided to call it a day. The night seemed to be going well, at the free lot, until two groups of loud campers showed up and dashed our hopes of sleep. One memorable and loud saying from the group was how it “only midnight” and there was lots of night left (I assume to keep us from sleeping and continue partying).

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Trying not to get too excited by keeping it silly!

The next day I was not feeling up to trying any more hard climbs and Lizzy was not ready to start climbing on the hard routes at the Hood. I wanted to climb either the Imaginator (of which I had done the excellent first pitch) or the Cathedral Route. Lizzy chose to go to a new area and after a bit of a long hike for Charleston (45mins) we found our self at the very chossy base of Cathedral Rock. A few loose rocks fell from the summit while we were racking up and I was a bit anxious that I had left my helmet at home.  After some exploring the multiple ledge systems I found the bolted starting belay so Lizzy and I got ready to climb. The Cathedral Route is on a north facing wall and we both changing into pants and Lizzy brought her R1 and light windbreaker.

Cathedral Route TopobA topo I made thanks to Beta Creator.

The book noted the route could only be rapped with two ropes so we brought our shoes to walk off on the hiker trail from the summit. The book also said the last pitch was 120 feet which we though might be workable to rappel with a 70m rope. The first pitch was the crux and a brutal warmup. The start seemed steep and I had to fight the pump on the many reaches between flat edges.  A little over halfway up the holds ran out and I was faced with sharp quartz bands running across the limestone face. I was right next to the arete and had to make an off balance move to get established on the slab. The next 25 feet were full on and I thought I might fall off at any point. Luckily I made it, passing a sporty runout in some bad rock, to the final crux before the anchor. I must have spent 20+ minutes at a good stance trying three different variations before discovering a small sidepull. This tiny hold helped me get my feet up and I made a few laybacking move to the anchor.

Lizzy followed with only 2 falls some how avoiding the flash pump that plagued me. The 2nd pitch was much easier since the dark bands now stuck out a good ways from the wall leaving one to two inch edges. Pitch two was almost vertical and I thought it felt more like 5.10c/d compared to the 10b given in the book.  I made it to the anchor knocking off only one rock from the chossy corner that led to the anchor. Pulling hard got me through the funky first 2 bolts of the final pitch. The next section, to the 3rd bolt and above, was so fun with perfect jugs appearing at the limit of my reach. An exciting slab move with my feet noticeably far above my last bolt had me yelling with joy. A nice rest set me up for some more steep jug pulling and the crux of the last pitch. I struggled to hold on to awkward underclings while reaching as high as I could search for the next hold. A small crimp gave way to a series of triangular flat ledges and more slabby limestone. The last part was a bit less feature and I was moving as fast as possible pinching large limestone features trying to avoid the pump.

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Luke cleans up some trash from Cathedral Rock

At the anchor  the middle mark of our rope was at the 3rd bolt so Lizzy decided to carry our shoes on the final pitch. I confirmed her decision when I pulled up the rope and the middle mark was almost 10 feet below me.  For convenience someone could easily double up the final protection bolt to create a rap station which would allow the whole route to be rapped with a 70m rope. Right now the final anchor is in a very logical place since it allows you 3rd class access to the summit. We strolled down the hiker trail and then I hiked a very direct route back to retrieve our packs. On my way back  I filled  my crampon pouch with bottles and cans and saw so much trash that still had to carry the final cans to the base.  Check out those old Budweisers!!

We had a great weekend but it will sadly be a long time before we go back to Charleston.

– Luke